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Yellow-headed Happenings at the Zoo

Belize can proudly boast being home to 9 species of those wonderfully charismatic birds: the parrots. Parrots are renowned for being “nature’s gardeners.” Their important role as seed predators and dispersers help keep our forest ecosystems balanced and healthy. They are also a very important part of ecotourism.  Thousands of bird fans come to our country every year hoping to see these feathered beauties in the wild.

Parrots have been around for millions of years, and have evolved to become as intelligent, adaptable, and social as many primate species.  Sadly, after millions of years of existence, many parrot populations have dropped dramatically in just a few short decades.  This is due to habitat loss and the pet trade, and even Belize has felt the throes of this troubling decline.

 

One of the most alarming examples of this trend is reflected in the populations of the yellow-headed parrot.  Over 90% of the species’ numbers have vanished from its home range in recent years. The subspecies Amazona oratrix belizensis ONLY occurs in Belize, and specifically, in pine savannah habitat.  Like its big red cousin, the scarlet macaw, our yellow heads are isolated and threatened.

All hope is not lost, however!  A few organizations have been working long and hard to preserve the yellow-headed parrots of Belize. For many years, TIDE, working southwards in the Payne’s Creek National Park, and Programme for Belize, working in the more northern reaches of the country, have been leaders in the monitoring and protecting of our rare yellow heads.   More recently, joint efforts by Programme for Belize and Belize Bird Rescue have seen captive raised yellow-headed parrots successfully released back into Payne’s Creek.

These victories have added fuel to a plan to mount a countrywide conservation program for this important species. THE Belize Zoo has joined this important cause with great enthusiasm!

Pine savannah makes up the habitat in and around TBZ. Such a haven for yellow heads! The Zoo will start the New Year by spearheading research focused on the population in Central Belize, which will yield crucial information about the species’ status in the area. Leading the way is TBZ Education Director Jamal Andrewin-Bohn, who has already starting laying the groundwork for this cool and vital parrot project.

TBZ looks forward to a bright year for yellow heads in 2016. By joining forces with our parrot-icularly amazing colleagues, we will make sure that this iconic savannah species is here to stay!

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